How to Make Natural Yeast From Scratch

You’ve heard of Natural Yeast, read about the health benefits, and want to jump on board. But where to get some starter? While it is possible to mail away for starter flakes, or scout for people in your area with fresh live starter, learning to make natural yeast from scratch is a fantastic skill to learn. Let’s look at a few different options for getting your hands on starter if you don’t feel up to starting your own quite yet, and then dive into what you will need to make your own starter.

Don’t know much about Natural Yeast? Learn More: Natural Yeast

Mail-Order Starter Flakes:

There are a few organizations that will send you natural yeast flakes for free if you mail them a self-addressed stamped envelope. These people take healthy starter and dehydrate it into flakes that contain all the right organisms a starter needs to grow healthy and strong for bread baking. Packets come with instructions for how to reconstitute the flakes with water and flour.  If you are not in a hurry, this can be a great way to get your hands on some starter. I will say, however, that the process of reconstituting starter flakes can take as long as starting your own new starter. The main difference is that with the flakes, you know for sure that you have all the right organisms in the mix. Here are some links to places to order flakes for free or cost:

 

Fresh, Live Starter: Begged or Bought

When I say “fresh” starter, I mean natural yeast that is already active, bubbling, and more or less ready to bake with. Fresh starter is most easily found in your community by simply asking around. Once people know you are in the market, it is easier for them to connect you with people they may know who keep starters. Another possibility is to check out some local artisan bakeries. Warning! Some bakeries claim to make sourdough or naturally yeasted bread, when really they are using commercial yeast and some starter for “flavor.” Do not trust the starter from these places. If you find a bakery that uses natural yeast (sourdough) exclusively, ask if they give away or sell starter. Many do, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

If you have access to fresh starter, I always recommend starting there, rather than by starting your own from scratch. Get familiar with how a healthy starter looks, smells, and behaves and learn to keep it that way. Once you have some of those basic skills under your belt, then experiment away with attempting to make natural yeast from scratch.

How To Make Natural Yeast From Scratch

*Note: This post covers the “making” process only. For more info on growing and successfully keeping your starter, please follow the links near the end of the post in the “Day 5- forever” section.

 

how to make Natural Yeast from scratch|via www.TheBreadGeek.com

This method is what I use when I want to create a new starter. It is simple and for me, does not require any additional trips to the store since I grind my own grains and keep lots on hand. I also prefer this method because it is one I could use in a situation where I didn’t have access to anything but the bare basics (think emergency/crisis). There are many other methods available on the internet, but not all are easy to read or work well. At the end of this post I will link to the ones I have found on other sites that are the most trustworthy.

You Will Need:

10 rye or wheat berries (preferably organic)

“Berry” is anther word for the grain. If you don’t grind your own wheat, these can be purchased in the bulk bins at many health food stores. Buy a small handful to keep stored in case you have to start over or you need some down the road. 

2 cups of whole wheat flour

2 cups of water (purified, if possible)

Small glass* jar with lid (like a canning jelly jar) or small glass bowl with cling-wrap

Glass* quart jar (for when your starter gets larger)

*No metal or plastic containers! When your starter gets going it will be acidic, and can eat away other materials.

Stirring utensil

5 days of patience

Optimism (as much as you can spare)

 Instructions:

make natural yeast from scratch grains in jar| via www.TheBreadGeek.com Day 1:

  • Put rye or wheat berries in jar.
  • Add 2 T water and swirl to moisten berries.
  • Add 1 T flour. Stir well.
  • Cover with lid (or cling-wrap) and place jar in warm spot (70-80 degrees F) for 24 hrs.

make natural yeast from scratch 24 hours later side| via www.TheBreadGeek.com make natural yeast from scratch 24 hour comparison top|via www.TheBreadGeek.com Day 2:

You probably don’t have any bubbles yet, that’s normal. That should change by tomorrow.

  •  Add 2 T water, stir to mix
  • Add 2 T flour, stir to mix
  • Put back in warm spot for 24 hrs.

make natural yeast from scratch 2nd mix closeup side |via www.TheBreadGeek.com Day 3:

By now you should start to see bubbles. Dance a small celebratory jig, but remember there is still work to do. We don’t want just any bubbly bacteria in our starter, we want the right ones. It is very common for new starters to house a great cheese-making bacteria that doesn’t make fantastic bread. It is harmless to you, and will usually be edged out by the yeasts and lactobacilli we actually want in a few feedings.

  • If necessary, transfer starter to larger jar.
  • 1/4 cup water, stir to mix.
  • 1/4 cup flour, stir to mix.
  • Put back in warm location for 24 hrs.

make natural yeast from scratch 3rd mix 24 hr side|via www.TheBreadGeek.com Day 4- Forever:

Time to assess your starter. Your new “baby” starter should have 2 things:

  1. Lots of bubbles (all sizes, and in every nook and cranny)
  2. A pleasant, yeasty smell.

natural yeast from scratch 4th mix 24 hr side close|via www.TheBreadGeek.com make natural yeast from scratch 4th mix 24 hr top|via www.TheBreadGeek.com

If your starter has the things we’re looking for in healthy starter, plow ahead. If not, skip down to “troubleshooting” below.

You have passed the “making” stage and are now into the “keeping” stage (Yay!). Here is where you will need to make a decision: Are you going to keep your starter in the refrigerator or on the counter-top? I use the refrigerator method exclusively on this blog.

Those looking for counter-top methods (using daily feedings) can find resources for moving on with their new starters here: Sourdough Home, Breadtopia

Day 4: Refrigerator Starter Method:

Read this post- Power-feeding Your Starter (skip down to the how-to and follow the instructions). It will guide you through the next 10 days of growing your starter to make it healthy and strong. Once you have completed that regimen, glance over these 4 posts below for great information on maintaining a successful starter for life.

How to Feed Your Natural Yeast Starter

3 Critical keys to success (don’t miss this one!)

Bubble or Double

Natural Yeast Bread Recipe for Beginners

2. Countertop Starter Method: Requires once or twice-daily feedings, can get a better “sour”

  • Resources for Countertop Starter Instructions:

Troubleshooting:

So it’s Day 5 and your starter still hasn’t shown much sign of life. Maybe a few lethargic bubbles, but nothing to get excited about. Here are three suggestions for working out the kinks in the order I would try them:

  1. Stir your starter well. Take out 1 Tablespoon of your starter and give it the Day 2 feeding. Continue with the schedule again to Day 4.
  2. Still no bubbles? Start over. Try the whole process from the beginning again. Check to make sure you didn’t miss any instructions.
  3. STILL none? You may need to add orange or pineapple juice to your process to keep the acidity high enough that the good bacteria/yeasts can get a better foothold. Here is a great post I found that takes you through everything you need to know for the fruit juice approach: The Fresh Loaf Wild Yeast Starter: With fruit juice!

If my Bread Geek method isn’t working for you, here is a list of my favorite backup methods, in order of favoriteness. 😉

1. The Fresh Loaf Pineapple Juice Method with bacteria explanation: Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter

2. Breadtopia Pineapple Juice Method with Video: Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

3. Japanese Fermented Raisin Water Method Video: How to Make Natural Yeast

4. King Arthur Flour Water & Flour method: Creating Your Own Sourdough Starter

5. Sourdough Home Water & Flour method: Starting a Starter, Mike’s Old Way

4.5 from 2 reviews
How to Make Natural Yeast From Scratch
 
Author: 
Make your own natural yeast at home with just 2 ingredients and a little time!
Ingredients
  • 10 rye or wheat berries (preferably organic)
  • "Berry" is anther word for the grain. If you don't grind your own wheat, these can be purchased in the bulk bins at many health food stores. Buy a small handful to keep stored in case you have to start over or you need some down the road.
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups of water (purified, if possible)
  • Small glass* jar with lid (like a canning jelly jar) or small glass bowl with cling-wrap
  • Glass* quart jar (for when your starter gets larger)
  • *No metal or plastic containers! When your starter gets going it will be acidic, and can eat away other materials.
  • Stirring utensil
  • 5 days of patience
  • Optimism (as much as you can spare)
Instructions
  1. Day 1:
  2. Put rye or wheat berries in jar.
  3. Add 2 T water and swirl to moisten berries.
  4. Add 1 T flour. Stir well.
  5. Cover with lid (or cling-wrap) and place jar in warm spot (70-80 degrees F) for 24 hrs.
  6. Day 2:
  7. You probably don't have any bubbles yet, that's normal. That should change by tomorrow.
  8. Add 2 T water, stir to mix
  9. Add 2 T flour, stir to mix
  10. Put back in warm spot for 24 hrs.
  11. Day 3:
  12. By now you should start to see bubbles.
  13. If necessary, transfer starter to larger jar.
  14. /4 cup water, stir to mix.
  15. /4 cup flour, stir to mix.
  16. Put back in warm location for 24 hrs.
  17. Day 4:
  18. Time to assess your starter. Your new "baby" starter should have 2 things:
  19. Lots of bubbles (all sizes, and in every nook and cranny)
  20. A pleasant, yeasty smell. You now have a starter! Read The Bread Geek's Powerfeeding Your Starter post (skip down to the how-to) and follow the regimen there to grow your starter and make it healthy. Then refer to the links near the end of this post for info on maintaining your starter for life!

 

Comments

  1. Carolyn says

    Hi Melissa, I love your book and I’m very interested in being able to make bread with the natural yeast. I got to start from my Mowrie friend and it’s called Renewa. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s a start made with flour, water(sometimes potato water ) and sugar. You keep it in the fridge tightly sealed and tell you’re ready to use it and then you take it out and feed it with half a cup of flour couple tablespoons of sugar and water and get it active. I tried using it with your bread recipe and it turned out very nice, really soft bread and good taste I was just wondering if you get the same health benefits with that? The start is very easy keep An it’s sweet not sour. I just want to know I’m getting the same great benefits. Thanks, Carolyn

    • thebreadgeek says

      Carolyn from everything I have studied about Maori bread it should be similar nutritionally. I haven’t made it myself though so I can’t speak from experience. The best part is that if you have a friend who can help you through the process, you have a definite advantage. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Ingrid says

    Hello Melissa,
    I am so happy to have accidentally (not) found your page. My son just asked me the other day how people made bread without yeast (store bought) back in the Bible days. Then I came across your page. So we are three days into making your starter and now I am wondering what to do for day 4 and so on, and at what point can we make bread with the starter? Thank you so much.
    God bless you and this wonderful site!

    • thebreadgeek says

      Hello Ingrid! What you do next depends a lot on how your starter is doing. Near the bottom of the post you will read which links to click depending on what your starter activity is. Taking care of a starter involves some learning, more than could be covered in one post. If your starter is doing well, I recommend clicking the Powerfeeding post and growing your starter in the refrigerator according to the instructions in the how-to of that post. There are also a bunch of links to posts that go over feeding, caring, etc. Does that help?

      • Ingrid says

        Thank you Melissa, I wrote on your facebook page earlier on. I am so thankful that you responded. Today is day 4 and there is liquid on the top of the starter. So is it the right thing to pour off the liquid and measure 1/4 cup starter to water to heaping flour, and do this for how long. I don’t put it in the fridge right? Only when the starter is strong, then do I refridgerate it?

        • Ingrid says

          OK, so I have read all over your webpage. Basically my brand new starter on day 3 was bubbly, today day 4 it is not bubbly at all, and has liquid on top. I realize that I am trying to grow a healthy new starter in 10 days. What is the 10 day schedule for a brand new starter that is having problems. On your recipe for a new starter you only have a 4 day schedule. I am stumped. Thanks for your help Melissa.

  3. carleen says

    I’m love this idea. But I’m not sure if I overlooked something. How do I use this yeast for regular white or whole wheat bread instead of store bought regular yeast cake/granular? Or is this meant strictly for sourdough recipes?

  4. Oo-LaLa says

    Hi Melissa,

    First, i want to thank you for your time and effort for making this information available. I had watched a YouTube video tonight of you explaining about the breads and journey (feeling like Joseph smith and not knowing who to believe) and I completely have felt the same with the conflicting ideas out there and the word of wisdom, especially in regards to wheat… So thank you for being a source of light! I have a few questions for you. I bought your book (actually 3) to keep one and give away 2 as gifts, about 2 years ago. I have been very aware of the pet if be taking on and so have hesitated starting a natural yeast…however, a few months ago I tried following the King Arthur websites directions for making my own starter…she recommended using a heating pad with a towel on top to keep the yeast more active during the beginning stages, which I did and very consistently fed. Along with it I followed your directions in your book…You would understand my joy when it started doubling every feeding after 6 or so hours, and bubbles forming well throughout. I was dancing and sending pictures to family like I’d just bought a new pet! It was very healthy and active (or so I thought) On about day 12 of power feeding I went for a 24 hour period of laziness (I know-I shouldn’t have) and didn’t do anything with it. It was still on the heating pad on low as it had been the entire time. When I came to feed it it had a even layer of mold growing on top…about 1/5 inch high, individual little elegant mold a blueish/black…I immediately threw it away disgusted that I had almost stirred it in without looking, and had baked with it in pancakes the day before…yuck! Have you had this happen? Or been aware of this happening? My understanding was that the natural yeast would actually fight against mold/fungus…is that typically true? I was actually grateful for this tip-off though because we discovered shortly after that a very dangerous aspergillus/staccybotrious (blackmold) was growing in our rental unit and have since moved out. So I’m wondering if my problem was the heating pad? Or maybe pollutants from my surroundings? I’ve since ordered a starter through Caleb warnock so hopefully it’ll be better with a start, but should I stay away from a heating pad? This brings up my last question..growing up my family had a wood burning Amish oven range we used all the time, this would be similar to what our pioneer ancestors would have had. In the top of the oven is what’s called a bread warmer, because it was far away enough from the fire not to cook, still close enough to keep it a nice warm, (similar to a proofer in a commercial bakery).the women would place their bread there to rise, and to keep foods warm…do you know if any of the benefits of natural yeast would be affected by using a proofer? Does it hurt it to warm it up a bit so it goes faster? I’ve heard of stories where people set it out in the sun to warm it up, or sometimes I’ll use a large bowl of hot water with a smaller bowl inside it to hold the bread and then place a lid on top…this has only need with making bread with commercial yeast though.

    I’m really wanting to make this as nutritionally best as possible, but also keep it as simple as possible. So glad for the Video post about how you refrigerate it, it was so very helpful to understand better the whys and how’s of the refrigerator…and so much less feeding time-love it! Thank you again!

    • thebreadgeek says

      A live starter with healthy bacteria will not mold. My guess is that your starter had died or whatever was in their to begin with was funky. The heating pad may have been to blame but really there are too many factors to isolate just one looking back. A proofer is a great idea for growing starter as long as you put a note for yourself out so you don’t forget about it. You will also want to check it more often just to see how it is going since it will be warmer. Have fun!

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